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Pro Sports An Important Part Of The Economic Growth Of Metro Phoenix

It has been nearly 50 years since the Suns kicked off the era of pro sports in Phoenix, but even so the city is a newcomer in sports. Among metro areas with teams in all four major leagues, Phoenix was the last to get started with the arrival of the Suns basketball team in 1968.

Even so, sports are now a major part of the Phoenix economy, helping drive growth directly and indirectly, according to the pro sports execs who spoke at Bisnow's Phoenix State of the Market. With the possible addition of Major League Soccer, the impact of sports is poised to be even stronger.

Pro Sports An Important Part Of The Economic Growth Of Metro Phoenix
HOK Managing Principal Anton Foss, who moderated, and
Phoenix Suns President Jason Rowley

The Phoenix Sports and Stadium Development panelists said Phoenix is one of the most dynamic sports markets in the country, with few other metros offering as much in the way of professional and collegiate sports.

One of the distinctive things about pro sports is that it offers content and experiences that people already care about, the speakers said.

But the teams still need to put resources behind new technologies that will make the experience better for fans, especially younger fans who interact with the world through social media.

Social media is a tremendous advantage in building a modern sports team, Phoenix Rising FC Chief Operating Officer Bobby Dulle said.

"All of that technology that's out there, you have to embrace it. Social media as a whole helps you understand your fans," he said. "It helps you sell tickets and that helps with the corporate dollars."

As his team made its Major League Soccer bid, it looked to Atlanta, Dulle said.

"It's a crowded market, with a lot of pro sports, but we saw that soccer is drawing 70,000 people in that market.

"If you create a good live-game experience, all the teams can be collectively successful in the Phoenix market."

But sports success is more than that, as important as the live experience is. The landscape of how sports brands are consumed has changed, and will continue to change, Dulle said. Thus the importance of connecting with fans through social media and other technologies.

Pro Sports An Important Part Of The Economic Growth Of Metro Phoenix
Arizona Diamondbacks Executive Vice President Cullen Maxey and Phoenix Rising FC Chief Operating Officer Bobby Dulle

Phoenix Suns President Jason Rowley said the Suns have had a part to play in the growth of Phoenix over the last 50 years. There is competition among the local teams, but the growth of the market has been a rising tide lifting all boats, he said. 

"Even though we chase the same corporate sponsors, I root for the Diamondbacks," Rowley said. "That is where there's the most competition, because there isn't that big of a corporate base compared with other markets. There are cities with fewer people, but maybe two or three times as many Fortune 500 companies."

As for ticket sales, that is mostly driven by team performace.

"If every one of our teams were chasing championships, we'd all sell out, so there's actually less competition for ticket sales," he said.

There are opportunities to collaborate among the teams, Rowley said, citing the Legends Entertainment District, which the Suns and Diamondbacks developed to help improve Downtown.

Arizona Diamondbacks Executive Vice President Cullen Maxey said Phoenix has the lowest per capita income of any city with a Major League Baseball team.

"That creates a challenge to grow revenue. We consistently try to fill the seats at our games. Part of that is winning, but it's also about collaborating with other teams to create a new generation of sports fans, including some of the new residents of Phoenix, since it's a growing city."

He said there was a Suns night this year at Chase Field, when the Diamondbacks gave out co-branded hats.

"We work together in building each other's brands, and we've done a good job of that."

Pro Sports An Important Part Of The Economic Growth Of Metro Phoenix
Parallel Capital Partners Managing Partner and CEO Matt Root

Parallel Capital Partners Managing Partner and CEO Matt Root and LaPour Partners President Jeff LaPour also spoke at the event, announcing that Las Vegas-based LaPour Partners will be developing a new AC Hotel at Arizona Center, where the event was held.

"It's an exciting time for Downtown Phoenix," Root said. "The right urban mix bolsters occupancy, and that density raises values, and improves the vibrancy of an area — which attracts investment capital. That's what we're seeing in Downtown Phoenix." 

LaPour said AC Hotels was rolled out initially in Spain, and Marriott and AC put together a joint venture in 2011 to expand the brand.

"Now there's 110 ACs across Europe, and 12 in the United States, with 75 in the works," he said.

LaPour Partners is at work on an AC Hotel at the Camelback Collective.

"When we looked at the brand, we liked the classic modern design. It's simple, it's clean," LaPour said.

The hotel will work well at Arizona Center, LaPour said.

"The timing is right. In what urban area can you build a new hotel that backs to a three-acre park, wrapped by restaurants? We're looking forward to getting started." 

Next week, Bisnow will cover the Design and Development and Capital Markets panels.